The view that one voice speaking to governments and communities would be stronger misses a fundamental point – diversity and inclusion is far more powerful than homogenised, single monopolies, writes Dr Lucy Morris.
The character and diversity of the community benefit sector delivering services to elderly Australians, and to the wider community would be significantly disadvantaged by the establishment of a single peak body, through the amalgamation of both commercial and community benefit voices, with Leading Age Services Australia (LASA) and Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA).
There is a view that one voice speaking to governments and communities would be stronger and more clearly heard and such a move would be welcomed by government – a premise that misses a fundamental point – diversity and inclusion is far more powerful than homogenised, single monopolies. The current situation might be messier, apparently more chaotic and uncontrolled, which I suspect unnerves and frustrates those who want to direct and establish a single powerful entity, but the richness of voices coming together to sing in harmony is a far more enriching and engaging experience and requires a different skillset to directing and controlling. A different type of leadership is required – perhaps this is the issue?
I find it extraordinary we continue to seek to create oneness, when the complexity and intensity of opinions and views find expressions more easily when living and working in communion. It allows for a greater transparency, visibility of power and accountability and enables our services to the elderly to be delivered locally where local solutions can be reached. It requires large providers to be equal to small providers, understanding the different pressures each other faces, and facilitates the different experiences to be heard by governments and communities. Prioritising large organisations’ needs over smaller providers shows a lack of awareness and reveals a version of the future being envisioned.
The reality is we should be wary of any accumulations of too much power where they are evidenced. When single groups claim too much, whether governments, corporations or institutions, all stifle human flourishing and people become divided. Adam Smith, the recognised instigator of market economics, understood the market is unable to protect itself against its in-built tendency to generate cartels and monopolies which undermine the principles of the market itself and which kills competition and silences dissent. It seems to me this constant hankering for a single voice undervalues the many and is seeking to create a monopolistic voice.
My view is the desire to become one comes from a lack of willingness and capacity to deal creatively with the diversity in our community, which is reflective of the broader community and the easier solution is to create a single entity without actually dealing with the issue: enabling the performance of the many voices singing in harmony. This speaks to lack of communication, lack of understanding and a willingness to override the smaller, quieter, less powerful, less visible organisations and their needs. It misreads the motivations for the different entities and the difference is important as both are critical to a healthy civil society. Finally, determining our profile, structure and reason for ‘being’ against the government desires, undervalues the breadth of the membership needs and expectations.
I honour the existence of LASA and ACSA. I’m glad both exist because both are needed.
Reverend Dr Lucy Morris is chief executive officer of Baptistcare Inc.